It is such a shock
from the wild valley
where for months I lived
in a tent within the sound
of wolves howling,
where bears ambled down mountains
to wander through camp
dressed in the cream of moonlight.
I must clean up my act
for tomorrow’s faculty meeting,
discussion groups where goals are set,
rubrics, outcomes, behavior
modifications are outlined.
I’ll shave, trade sandals for shoes,
wear long pants
so that we can decide
in the high school cafeteria
what we want these kids to know
and how we can tell when they know it;
what battery of tests
will indicate they are ready
to go into the world,
take charge of things,
and do to those who follow
what we have done to them.
Tomorrow, looking sharp, civilized,
with unfailing courage,
I will suggest as a progressive
that we try a field trip;
ten months is all I’ll ask.
Instead of eighty pounds of books,
we give each child a down bag,
a few utensils, a compass, of course,
a blank journal, a good pen.
Drop them off, alone, in wild valleys:
the Tetons, Yellowstone,
the Beartooth, the Sawtooth, the Cascades,
the Adirondacks, the Green, the White,
Let the rustling and snuffling sounds
of darkest night teach them to listen;
let glacial meltwater teach them
the true nature of cold;
let those beings making a living
on icy summits teach survival;
let wildflowers teach beauty;
let morning fog among valley pines
teach them peace;
let the glassy stars
spread across the dark
like a sparkling cloud
be their curriculum.
No tests will be needed,
no mimeograph sheets.
And when they graduate,
each one will know who he is,
that he is part of a living world,
and that his job
is to live in that world
with grace and respect.
–Brian A. Connolly
AboutI am an Assistant Professor of English Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. My research in public rhetorics and community engagement has appeared in Enculturation, PLUCK!, Reflections, and Computers and Composition.
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